General English

Information & Library Science


  • noun in the House of Commons, a vote against a motion


  • adjective showing the negative


  • chemical symbol fornobelium
    (written as No)

Origin & History of “no”

English has three words no, which come from quite distinct sources (although they all, of course, contain the ancient negative particle ne). No the negative reply (OE) means etymologically ‘not ever, never’. It originated as a compound of ne and ā ‘ever’ (a relative of archaic modern English aye ‘ever’, whose own negative form is nay (12th c.)) and the resulting became in the 13th century no. The history of no ‘not’ (OE) (which is now used virtually only in the expression ‘whether or no’) is almost exactly parallel: it was formed from Old English ō ‘ever’, a variant of ā. The adjective no ‘not any’ (13th c.) is a reduced form of none, its final n originally dispensed with before consonants.